Archive for February 2011
Calla Tor has always known her destiny. She is an alpha werewolf of the Nightshade Pack and is to be mated with Ren Laroche, the male alpha werewolf of the Bane Pack. The plans for their impending union, designed to create a new pack, are upset by the arrival of Shay, a human, when Calla impulsively saves him during a night on patrol. With this one simple decision, Calla has changed everything. Her fascination and attraction to Shay will cost her everything that she has held so dear-including her own life.
Nightshade may sound like an ordinary paranormal romance with a forbidden love story, however, its supreme world building, mythology, and intrigue sets this book apart. There is a hierarchy and social class structure in Calla’s world. Guardians, what we call werewolves, are created by magical creatures (who, in my opinion, are very similar to witches and warlocks) called the Keepers. The sole purpose of the Guardian’s role is to serve and protect the Keepers against their enemy, the Searchers. Humans are the lowest class and not given any importance, which is why Calla’s disobedience in saving Shay is so striking. In addition to the social structure of Calla’s world, we also learn about the customs and traditions of the pack. It is through her increasing fascination with Shay and his challenges to her traditions that catalyzes Calla’s rebellious attitude. From the werewolf books that I have read, this mythology of magic and power is refreshing and intriguing.
Calla is a strong heroine that I’m sure many will like and her love interests, Shay and Ren, are equally well developed and fascinating. Cremer does a great job in describing the individuals that make up the two wolf packs. I loved watching them interact with one another and how they responded to their alpha’s call. Don’t miss out on this well written paranormal romance!
Availability: Nightshade is available through My Media Mall.
Read alikes: Wolfsbane (NightShade #2; available in 2011) by Andrea Cremer, Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Dark Divine by Bree Despain, or Matched by Ally Condie
Summary: In 1989, naturalist Mark Carwardine and author Douglas Adams traveled the world for BBC radio, tracking down species on the edge of extinction. In 2001, shortly before his death, Adams and Carwardine began laying the foundation to revisit the species to see how they were faring. Adams, unfortunately, died suddenly and unexpectedly; it fell to his close friend, comedian and actor Stephen Fry, to accompany Carwardine on his journey. Together, they attempt to track down the Amazonian Manatee, Northern White Rhino, Aye-Aye, Komodo Dragon, Kakapo and Blue Whale.
Review: This series is, quite simply, not to be missed. Visiting the animals on location lends the episodes an immediacy and authenticity often lacking in other environmental documentaries. In addition, as Fry and Carwardine work with scientists striving against all odds to save the animals they are seeking, the series nimbly avoids the trap of bemoaning extinction in a forlorn and depressed manner, taking a far more practical outlook. The footage is stunning, Carwardine and Fry are excellent company and the human and environmental insights provided are gripping. The only problem is that the series stops at 6 episodes.
View-a-likes: For those seeking similar DVD’s, Planet Earth, An Inconvenient Truth or Encounters at the End of the World might be worth a look. Reader’s might take a look at Michael Pollan’s books, for nonfiction, or My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki for fiction.
Availability: The Lake Bluff Public Library owns this item on DVD. Click here to check on the availability!
Review by Eric.
Posted February 24, 2011on:
In 1986, Afghanistan was torn apart by a war with the Soviet Union. This graphic novel/photo-journal is a record of one reporter’s arduous and dangerous journey through Afghanistan accompanying the Doctors Without Borders. Didier Lefèvre’s photography, paired with the art of Emmanuel Guibert, tells the powerful story of a mission undertaken by men and women dedicated to mending the wounds of war.
The Photographer is not just a photography book nor a graphic novel. It is a marriage between these two genres that tell a powerful and inspiring story in the similar vein that text and illustrations do in a picture book. This documentary graphic novel brings together vivid, beautiful, and striking black and white photographs taken by Lefèvre, intimate drawings by Guibert, an organized and clear layout, and easy to read translation and introduction by Siegel.
The year is 1986 and Afghanistan is at war with the Soviet Union. Photographer Lefèvre had volunteered to join the Médecins sans Frontières (MSF; Doctors Without Borders), to document a mission: to build a medical facility into northern Afghanistan. Along the way, he and the team of doctors, guides, and interpreters endured a physically exhausting, arduous journey, and witnessed the effects of war. The humanitarian and altruistic spirit of the doctors and the resilience of the Afghanis is what keeps this graphic novel from being so depressing. Readers find out that for Afghanis, war is unfortunately nothing new to them and has become a part of their lifestyle. They take their wounds in stride and keep on living. It is heartbreaking to see how easily weapons are acquired while schools are considered a luxury and are scarce.
By reading and experiencing The Photographer, we finally get a glimpse into this mysterious war-torn country that hasn’t been in a severe limelight since the atrocious 9/11 attacks and try to wrap our heads around what American troops are facing in the current Afghan war.
Read-alikes: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman, or Sarajevo by Joe Kubert
In futuristic U.S. oil is scarce and grounded oil tankers are broken into and stripped, sold for their parts. Nailer scavenges ships in order to stay alive. When he finds a rich, beached ship with a girl in the wreckage, he has to decide if he should strip the ship for its wealth or rescue the girl. Is the girl the ticket he needs to get out of poverty or will she drag him down further into his hellish world?
As Ship Breaker opens, we are plunged into a claustrophobic, dark setting of a ship’s service duct. We immediately realize that Nailer’s dirty and dangerous job is to crawl deep into the wrecks of the ancient oil tankers that line the beach, scavenging copper wire and turning it over to his crew boss. Quota must be met or you might not live for the next day. Nailer and his crew live in extreme poverty where food and clean drinking water is scarce. While the book is considered a dystopian and futuristic society, one can’t help but feel that the dire situation mirrors what reality is for many, if not all, impoverish communities living in many countries today. The division between the haves and the have nots is staggering, but unfortunately not startling. While the world may not be different from today’s economic times, what is startling to see is the lengths humans are willing to go to in order to survive. Like the resources that are limited in Nailer’s world, trust, loyalty, and family is almost nonexistent, which is portrayed both by the book’s characters as well as the distant, third person narrative.
Ship Breaker is a gripping and fast paced story that fans of dystopian novels will enjoy. I learned a lot about the job of being a ship breaker, which I did not know about until I read this book. I really appreciate Bacigalupi in using racially and culturally diverse characters in his novel. Both the female and male characters have equal presence and importance in the novel. Themes such as environmental responsibility and social/economic inequity would the book a good choice for a book discussion.
Summary: Morrie Morgan, the itinerant teacher of a one room 1909 Montana schoolhouse, disappeared from the lives of his former pupils at the end of The Whistling Season. Ten years later, Morrie is still running from the demon’s of his past; the Chicago mob has never forgotten the money they are owed, and Morrie cannot forget the sweetheart who left him for a farmer. Starting over once again, he finds himself back in Montana, this time in the city of Butte. Beneath the ‘Richest Hill on Earth’, with the turmoil of a miner’s strike brewing, Morrie must once and for all confront the shadows that have dogged him across ten years and thousands of miles.
Review: Doig is always at his best when his books are strongly grounded in the Montana of his youth, and this is no exception. Butte comes vividly to life, and the always witty Morrie makes for an absolutely stellar lead. Readers who remember him from The Whistling Season will not want to miss this one. For newcomers, there is sufficient back story to keep you going and a gem of a story that should not be missed.
Read-a-likes: If you haven’t picked up Whistling Season yet, then definitely do so. If you enjoyed the western setting, you might also try Annie Proulx or Larry McMurtry. Also perhaps worth a look are Hard Winter by Johnny Boggs or the ‘Holmes on the Range’ mysteries of Steve Hockensmith.
Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and an eBook. Click here to check on availability!
Review by Eric.
We will be closed on Monday due to Presidents’ Day!
We will re-open on Tuesday morning at 10 AM.
Posted February 16, 2011on:
Summary: For 76 years after it’s discovery in 1930, Pluto reigned as the ninth planet in the solar system. And then, in 2005, Mike Brown (the author) found a distant sphere slightly larger than Pluto. For years, Brown and others had been finding a mounting number of small Pluto-esque worlds at the far reaches of the solar system, calling into question whether everyone’s favorite oddball planet could indeed be called a planet. Brown’s discovery, the dwarf planet now known as Eris, forced the issue. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted to strike Pluto down as a planet, and make it one of the first bodies in the new category of dwarf planet. Overnight, Brown began receiving hate mail from forlorn school children mourning the death of Pluto. This book follows Brown’s years of searching our solar systems outer reaches, and the events of the firestorm he helped ignite.
Review: Michael Brown, responsible for finding most of the known Trans-Neptunian Objects of any size, provides a one of a kind perspective on the ‘what-is-a-planet’ debate. In addition, he’s a witty enough writer that the science and planet debate become absolutely gripping. His chapters do stray off topic occasionally, and his obsession with his first-born child can be distracting at points, but these are minor gripes. Overall, for any nonfiction reader (not just astronomy buffs) this is a laugh out loud funny memoir that is not to be missed.
Read-a-likes: Nonfiction readers looking for more on Pluto’s dilemma should check out Is Pluto a Planet? by David Weintraub or The Pluto Files by Neil Tyson. For curious fiction readers, Percival’s Planet by Michael Byers fictionalizes Pluto’s discovery.
Availability: This book is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and eBook. Click here to check it out!
Review by Eric.
A unique and quirky look into the lives of Vikings and their pests… dragons. Hiccup, a Viking youth and blacksmith, wants nothing more than to be a dragon fighter. His lady crush, Astrid, is cream of the crop when it comes to taking down the flying nuisances, and he attempts to impress her.
Soon, Hiccup is able to catch a dragon and ironically becomes friends with “Toothless;” a literal wild ride ensues for Hiccup to better understand these creatures the Vikings share their land with.
Hiccup is an engaging and insightful character. His sympathetic and kind nature contrast with the often narrow-minded views of his fellow Vikings. The mystical nature of the storyline is both investigative and action-oriented. While it is a juvenile film, it appeals to adults as well. Finally, the animation is well-done and enjoyable. All in all, a very engrossing film!
If you enjoy How to Train Your Dragon, try:
Despicable Me (Universal Studios)
Toy Story 3 (Disney*Pixar)
If you want something a LITTLE different, try:
Secretariat (Walt Disney Studios Entertainment)
For something REALLY different, try:
The Social Network (Sony Pictures)
Review by Carlen